Friday, July 28, 2006

Recently Added Naturalization Records Indexes

The following links were recently added to: Online Searchable Naturalization Indexes ...

- Jefferson County: Surname Index to Jefferson County, AL Naturalization Records 1887-1911 (includes Birmingham)

- Madera County Naturalization Records - has 20th Century (1907 and later) Declarations of Intent & Petitions for Citizenship (some gaps)

- Douglas County: Index of Declaration of Intention for Citizenship 1871-1938
- La Plata County: Durango Naturalization Records Indexes

- Cedar County Naturalization Records

New Jersey
- Atlantic County Immigration Index - Mostly Declarations of Intention - includes digitized images

New York
- Eastern District Court of New York Naturalization Project 1865-1956 (work in progress/not complete) indexes naturalization records of Eastern District NY Courts including Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Richmond (Staten Island), Nassau & Suffolk Counties.

North Dakota
- Name Index to North Dakota Naturalization Records for federal courts - U.S. District and U.S. Circuit Courts, District of North Dakota

South Dakota
- Name Index to Naturalization Records from Dakota Territory and South Dakota... most listings are for federal courts

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ellis Island? Castle Garden? Which One? And When?

This article was updated on 8 October 2020

From August 1855 to July 1924, millions of new arrivals to New York City went through an immigration processing center. The most famous New York immigration centers are Ellis Island and Castle Garden. The least famous is likely the Barge Office, which was used briefly just prior to the opening of Ellis Island in 1892, and again following a fire on Ellis Island in 1897. The Ellis Island fire broke out just after midnight on June 15, 1897, destroying the buildings there. After the fire, newly arriving immigrants were initially inspected on Manhattan piers, then the Barge Office was again put to use. In 1900, new buildings were completed on Ellis Island, and the immigration center was reopened there.

Here's a simple timeline for when New York's immigrant processing centers were operating:
  • Prior to August 1855 .... No central processing center
  • August 3, 1855 to April 18, 1890 .... Castle Garden
  • April 19, 1890 to December 31, 1891 .... The Barge Office
  • January 1, 1892 to June 14, 1897 .... Ellis Island
  • June 15-20, 1897 .... Immigrants inspected on Manhattan piers
  • June 21, 1897 to December 16, 1900 .... The Barge Office
  • December 17, 1900 to July 1, 1924 .... Ellis Island
On July 1, 1924 a new law went into effect which stated that immigrants were to be inspected at US consular offices in the immigrant's home country before coming to the US. Ellis Island continued to be used as an alien detention center until November 1954. The first person to be processed at Ellis Island in 1892 was a 17-year-old Irish girl, Annie Moore. The last Ellis Island detainee was a Norwegian merchant seaman named Arne Peterssen.

Four Ellis Island ImmigrantsThe Barge Office was located on the southeastern tip of Manhattan. Castle Garden, now called Castle Clinton National Monument, was located on a small island just off the southwestern tip. Later landfill has attached the island to Manhattan. Castle Clinton National Monument serves as a visitor information center for New York's National Parks and Monuments. You can also purchase tickets there for ferry trips to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

The passenger ships to New York didn't actually land at Ellis Island -- they landed at Manhattan and the passengers were ferried over to the island for processing. Generally only steerage passengers went to Ellis Island for inspection. Most of the first and second class passengers were allowed to leave the ship soon after docking. All passengers, however, were (or should have been) listed on the ship manifest (or passenger list). However, from June 1897 to early 1903, New York passenger lists contain the names of steerage passengers only (with some exceptions). Most of the lists for first and second class (cabin class) passengers for that period are missing. After January 1903, (and from 1820 to June 1897), the lists should include all classes of passengers. (See Marian Smith's discussion on this topic at the Avotaynu link in the sources section below.)

The Ellis Island fire in the early morning of June 15, 1897 also destroyed some Ellis Island administrative records and the New York immigration passenger lists. However, separate New York customs passenger lists were kept elsewhere, and they have survived. So ship passenger lists for the early Ellis Island period (1892-June 1897) are available for research along with the rest of the New York passenger lists, beginning with 1820. These passenger records were later microfilmed by the National Archives (customs lists 1820-mid June, 1897), and the INS (immigration lists mid June, 1897-July 3, 1957), who gave the master copies to the National Archives. Over time many indexes and finding aids have been created to help locate individual immigrants on these lists. For information on finding New York passenger lists see...

Finding New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

For help with other ports...

Thanks to INS/USCIS historian, Marian Smith, for her help with this article.

  • Castle Garden/Castle Clinton National Monument History from the National Park Service (
  • Ellis Island Immigration from the National Park Service (
  • "Fire on Ellis Island," New York Times, June 15, 1897, page 1.
  • "Caring for Immigrants (New Arrangements in Consequence of Yesterday Morning's Fire at Ellis Island, Inspections on the Piers)," New York Times, June 16, 1897, page 1.
  • "The Immigration Service," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 20 Jun 1897, page 7.
  • "Last Day of Castle Garden (Fun Begins at the Barge Office about Future Immigrants)," New York Evening World News, April 18, 1890, page 1.
  • Immigration Act of 1924: An Act to limit the immigration of aliens into the United States, and for other purposes, Library of Congress (
  • They Came in Ships by John P. Colletta, Ph.D., revised 3rd edition. Orem, Utah: Ancestry, 2002.
  • "Just How Were Passenger Manifests Created?" by Sallyann Sack-Pikus. April 1, 2009: Avotaynu.
  • 125th Anniversary of Annie Moore and Ellis Island by Megan Smolenyak (

Monday, July 17, 2006

Annie Moore - Ellis Island's First Immigrant

New York's Ellis Island opened as an immigrant processing center on January 1, 1892. The first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island was a 15-year-old Irish girl named Annie Moore. Her ship, the SS Nevada, arrived in New York from Liverpool, England and Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland on December 31, 1891. Annie and her two siblings went to Ellis Island by ferry the next day.

You can see a scan of Annie Moore's passenger list (ship manifest) at FamilySearch (free with registration). Annie is passenger #2 on the list. Her siblings, Anthony and Phillip are passengers 3 and 4.

Annie Moore's Story in the New York Times The New York Times ran a story about the opening of Ellis Island and Annie Moore on January 2, 1892. You can read an excerpt from this article at: Annie Moore, First Ellis Island Immigrant - in the New York Times

Ellis Island? Castle Garden? Which One? And When? Here's an article about New York's three immigration centers: New York's Immigration Centers - Ellis Island, Castle Garden and the Barge Office

For more information on Annie Moore see: Found: the Real Ellis Island Annie Moore

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Civil War Pension & Service Records - Tips for Finding Them

This article was updated on 9 September 2018.

Civil War Service Records

For a guide to finding these records see:
Civil War Service Records Research Guide

To find a Civil War service record it is helpful to know the soldier's allegiance (Union or Confederate), and the regiment and state (example: 10th Missouri Infantry). You can usually find this information in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System Online Database.

Civil War Pension Records

Most (but not all) Union soldiers or their widows (or other dependents) applied for and received a pension. Civil War pension records for Union soldiers are held by the National Archives, and can be ordered from them for a fee.

Confederate soldiers or their widows usually were only able to apply for a pension if the soldier was disabled or indigent (poverty-stricken). This varied by state. These records are usually held by a state archives (where the soldier was living at the time he applied for the pension) or similar repository.

For more information see: How to Find Civil War Pension Records & Indexes - Union & Confederate

Civil War Records and Indexes on the Internet

For online indexes to some Civil War service records, pension records, veterans census schedules, rosters of soldiers, and prisoners of war see: Online Civil War Indexes, Records & Rosters

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

New Additions - Online Death Indexes

The following links were recently added to Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records ...

- Placer County: Index to Deaths 1852-1885 from the Placer Herald Newspaper, Auburn, California

- African American Cemeteries and Obituaries - includes about 80,000 entries for Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Schley, and Sumter counties in Georgia and Russell County, Alabama

- Wayne County Cemeteries - scanned pages from the Wayne County, Kentucky Cemeteries book

- Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts - Jewish Burials Search (55,000 entries)
- Plymouth County: Town of Middleboro Vital Records Index 1649-1945 (downloadable PDF files) also has cemetery listings and other records

- Isabella County: Chippewa River District Library Obituary Finder

- St. Louis: New Mt. Sinai Cemetery Jewish Burials 1850-Oct 2004 (downloadable PDF files)

New York
Monroe County...
- Rochester Public Library Life Records Database - indexes death notices from City of Rochester newspapers 1960-2006; also has birth & marriage notices
Queens County...
- Mount Hebron Jewish Cemetery Burials
- Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery Burials
- Mount Zion Jewish Cemetery Burials

- Fayette County Genealogy Project (includes cemetery records - cemetery database has about 50,000 entries)
- Lawrence County: New Castle Public Library Marriage & Obituary Database

- Salt Lake County: Bingham City Cemetery Burials

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Book Review: The Source - A Guidebook to American Genealogy

You may not be aware that before Ancestry was a provider of online genealogy databases and family trees, they published genealogy books. In 2006 they updated one of their major reference works (and later put it online as a wiki -- see below). The Source - A Guidebook to American Genealogy (edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking) is now available in a third edition. It has been expanded and revised to include both online and offline resources. The Source is essentially a guidebook through the vast maze of records created about people over time and place. We like to call these genealogy records.

The early chapters cover the basics of genealogy research, using offline records, and the Internet. Then there are separate chapters on the following types of genealogy records: businesses and other organizations, census records, church records, court records, city and other directories, immigration records, land records, military records, newspapers, and vital records. Special guides include: African American research, colonial English, colonial Spanish (for Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas), Hispanic, Jewish American, Native American, and urban research (for finding lost people in large cities).

Descriptions of Two Chapters
Rather than try and cover this entire book - it's over 900 pages long - here's a brief look at two of the book's chapters...

Immigration Records... The chapter on immigration records has useful information about ship passenger lists, border crossings (from Canada), naturalization records, alien registrations and passports. This section was put together by some of the best experts in the field of immigration records, including Kory Meyerink and INS historian Marian Smith. Genealogy speaker and author Megan Smolenyak contributed a helpful four-and-a-half page guide to using the Ellis Island Database. And they even recommend a visit to my own online Guide to Passenger Lists on the Internet.

A section called "American Sources for Documenting Immigrants" suggests helpful places to look for records that document immigrants, some of which might name that all important place (village, town, city) where your immigrant ancestor came from. Knowing this can help you pursue further research in foreign records. A later section covers foreign sources that also might help determine immigrant origins.

Census Records... The chapter on census records discusses the importance of the census to genealogy research, and has tips for searching in census records online and off. Questions asked in each census are given for each census year, along with specific research tips. Two small sections offer "Suggestions for Microfilm Searches" and "Suggestions for Online Searches." There are also two helpful tables for dealing with census indexes - "frequently misread letters" and "phonetic substitutes." Microfilm and soundex are discussed for offline searching.

There is also a section on non-population schedules and special censuses, including mortality schedules, veterans schedules, state and local censuses, African American and Native American censuses, and others. A helpful table at the end of the chapter, "Potential Census Substitutes," offers suggestions for other types of records to look for.

This book is like having several specialized guides combined into one large work. You could build a fine genealogy reference library by starting here.

The Source: Book and Online Versions

Order a copy of the book from Amazon: The Source: A Guidebook Of American Genealogy

A digitized version of The Source can be found online at: The Source - A Guidebook to American Genealogy Wiki

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